It's time to rethink your approach to doing posters. If you take a look at a few of the current trends in poster design, you're likely to see a lot of photography, simple typography, vector art, and flat graphics. This may be good enough if you need something done quickly, or in the case of purely typographic posters, want to cut costs. However, following the crowd is also likely to leave you with a poster that blends in with the masses--not the ideal scenario if your goal is to be eye-catching. To counteract this, consider reviving an old school idea for your next poster: hand-drawn illustration.
Why Illustrated Posters Work
Among their many strengths, illustrated posters knock one key element of design out of the park: the dominant image. Done correctly, a good drawing is a surefire way to attract attention. When you make your entire poster a drawing, you succeed not only in directing focus, but in making your poster appealing from a distance as well, which is critical if you want to print it and display it in public.
Furthermore, illustrated posters also allow you to have fun with your idea, whatever it may be. Concepts and imagery that might not come across well with Photoshop or a pure type layout become possible when given an illustrator's creative touch. Since the art can take whatever form you choose, you can even tell a short story, further enhancing the depth and appeal of the finished product.
Lastly, since illustrated posters are ideal for printing, they grant you the opportunity to play with different production techniques. Screenprinting, letterpress, and a litany of alternate printing styles are available to you, and each will give your finished poster a different feel. Many of these techniques simply don't work the same with digital posters, and they add a layer of prestige that's difficult to obtain otherwise.
Crafting Your Illustrated Poster
If you're not a talented artist or designer, you'll probably need to work with one to make your vision a reality. That doesn't mean you won't have any input, however. You should familiarize yourself with some of the considerations you'll need to keep in mind to ensure a quality product. In addition to a dominant image, here are a few other aspects of good poster design:
Contrast is Key
Posters fail to "pop" if everything on them looks the same. Your image, whatever it may be, should include visual contrasts that direct the viewer's eye to different areas of the page. It could be a color that stands out or a figure in the illustration that's larger than its counterparts. There are additional visual design rules to follow, of course, but contrast is going to play one of the largest roles in ensuring visual appeal.
Use of Typography and Space
Although the image is the hook that pulls viewers in, you'll still need typographical elements to convey detailed information. These shouldn't detract from the image, but they should still be bold enough for people to read them easily. They help complement the tone of the poster, so mood-appropriate font choices are a must, as are all the other rules that apply to using type in design: limit your font choices, space your information to increase impact and readability, contrast word colors with your background, etc.
Play To Your Audience
This goes without saying. Your target demographic is vital, and will influence the look of your poster. Consider what will appeal to your audience when selecting fonts, colors, and all the other components of your finished poster.
Designers have placed a lot of emphasis on keeping things quick and simple for the web. When it comes to making posters, however, there's still room for more sophisticated projects. The illustrated poster might be one of the best promotional techniques you can use to stand out in a sea of sameness, and you should give it careful consideration the next time you need to send your message to the masses.